Arsenal Fan Protest – Norwich Thoughts

Yesterday’s home game against Norwich, which was frustrating viewing, has been overshadowed by the ‘Time for Change’ protest. I’m going to jump straight in here and give my thoughts on the whole thing, whether some of you agree or disagree is totally your call.

The aim of the protest was to show the club’s owner and directors the discontent felt by the fans at how our club is now being run. It has now been 12 years since we have won the Premier League and every year we show promise, up until December/January, then capitulate with the same consistent failings.

When the owner comes out and states in a publication, “If you want to win championships then you would never get involved.” then clearly something is wrong. Try telling that to Roman Abramovich. It was clear from the outset that he only bought Arsenal FC for the investment, which yes it has paid off if he decides to sell, but at the fans expense. Prices have gone up, we pay the highest ticket fees in Europe for football that is no longer beautiful to watch or competing for titles. We have won two successive FA Cups in the last 9 years, which was a great achievement, but we should be competing on all fronts. Winning mentality stems from the top and it is clear we don’t have an owner with a winning mentality and settles for mediocrity. This trickles down into the board, who get richer every year, the manager, who has less pressure on him, and the players.

Stan ‘Silent’ Kroenke is also the first ever shareholder  to take a dividend out of the club. He refused to speak to fellow shareholders at the AGM, which to me shows huge disrespect, and refused to explain what the annual £3 million “consultancy fees” were actually for. At least be honest and say it was a dividend rather than treat us like we are too stupid to understand.

The march before the match was one I did not fully agree with. You had grown men, and boys, targeting Wenger directly and wishing death upon him. This is just wrong, you do not wish death someone, especially one who brought us such great success during the first half of his employment. This is what the media will pick up on more rather than the real meaning of the protest as it makes for a more sensational headline and also makes us a laughing-stock.

The protest inside the stadium demonstrated how divided our fan base currently is and was met with a chorus of boos and chanting. Firstly, I think fans have a right to express their opinions and views openly, as long as it is not mindless abuse like the above example. It doesn’t matter if you pay £50 for a game, £1000-£3000 for a season ticket, own a £16000 share, we are all fans, we are all entitled to an equal opinion, we are the club, without fans the clubs are nothing.

When the A4 pieces of paper were held up I heard a lot of abuse being thrown at the people protesting e.g. “SUPPORT YOUR CLUB” and “SIT DOWN YOU C*NT”. The people who decided to take part in holding up the ‘Time for Change’ signs do support the club and they love the club, the reason they are protesting is because they care about how the club is being run and it hurts to see the decline from the high standard we used to have.

When the chanting started for “We love you Arsenal”, “Arsenal till I die” etc. the people holding up the signs were singing along as much as anyone as it’s the club they love. Now, when the “One Arsene Wenger” chant started, and the protesters of course did not join in, I felt a lot of people in the stadium didn’t quite understand the core reason behind it in the first place. As I’ve already stated it was to make the hierarchy at the club aware that the fans are fed up with how the club is run, a money leeching owner, lack of investment, poor performances and consistent failings. It was not designed to target Wenger or harass him out of the club but for the club as a whole to change their mentality.

One question I do have is why isn’t Ivan Gazidis getting questioned? Ultimately he is CEO of Arsenal and Wenger’s boss so why is he not being held accountable? He turns up to the fan group meetings and gives his spin and deflects questions left and right but isn’t being questioned on why he isn’t putting pressure on the manager or relaying back to the board the need to buck up ideas rather than increase social media marketing.

If people want to protest then they are entitled to, it is their right to express themselves. Before the game, after the game it’s all good but during the game I have a mixed opinion. There are two sides of the coin, you risk unsettling the players whilst we are still fighting for 2nd-4th but it is also when the protest will get the most attention as it is  being televised. Either way the team always gets full support when they are on the pitch.

Was the protest a success? Yes and no. It has gained media coverage and awareness, which is a plus for those protesting. The negatives are that the media will twist it into a Wenger witch hunt and the fact only a handful of people took part. I’m sure there will be a lot more to come regarding protests in the future if nothing changes. I personally believe the board, especially Kroenke, won’t even bat an eyelid as long as people are still paying to sit in the stadium. Why would they care as long as the person holding up a piece of paper has paid them to do so.

As for the match, what is there to say? For some reason we started Giroud, who has no confidence and is out of form, and Ramsey. The game was crying out for pace and someone to run in behind the Norwich defence. Ramsey did his usual, slowed the game down, took too many touches and lost the ball. I’d much rather see Coquelin partner El Neny and allow the Egyptian to go box to box knowing he has cover behind.

Everyone was crying out for Welbeck to come on and inject some pace into the team, especially with how poor Giroud was again. When he did come on it was met with resounding boos as Iwobi made way for the England international. Wenger was then vindicated only 3 minutes later as Giroud and Welbeck combined to score the only goal of the match. Giroud then came alive after 60 minutes of falling over and losing headers. The whole team started to play football but we still let Norwich have chances and we have Petr Cech to thank for making some big saves.

There’s not much else to say about the match that hasn’t already been said over the last 4 months so I’ll leave it there.

Enjoy your bank holiday weekend if you don’t have t work!

Chelsea vs Arsenal Preview: Muted Performance or Goals Galore?

After yet another predictable and uninspiring performance in the Champions League, against Zagreb, we jump back into Premier League today against Chelsea. As we know, Chelsea have just come lost back to back games and we were looking the more threatening team, but after the mid-week games it feels like they may have some confidence back.

I feel this game will go one of two ways. It will either be a game that neither team wishes to lose and will be content to sit, be patient and possibly play for a draw if they can’t nick a win. Or it will be an explosive game and goals will fly in from both sides.

We all have grown accustomed to Wenger’s traditional excuses when we lose and the ‘mental strength’ cliché but in yesterday’s press conference he said he will not use the tired from travelling excuse:

“Chelsea play as well and it is part of our job. I don’t think it will be a massive problem for us, but we will see. I think we have gone down the way where we have to accept that television decides when you are going to play. We have to accept that.”

 

After the baffling team selection against Zagreb we should be back to full force today. Petr Cech returns for his second match against his former club, replacing Ospina. Bellerin, Monreal and Ramsey will come back into the team. I know people complain about Ramsey on the right, I am one of them, but Wednesday’s performance by Chamberlain demonstrated why he has been played ahead of him. When he has an off day then Chamberlain gives the ball away far too much, but on his good day he is superb.

Wenger has also commented on Cech starting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the first time:

I just want him to focus on this game and not be influenced by that. You can’t go there and wonder if you’re standing in the right goal or not. He is so experienced that I don’t need to talk to him about that. Our individual performances will be more important than what he knows. There is no massive secret in that.

 

I think Wenger will start Theo Walcott ahead of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman’s head is down and his confidence is shot. He has the French fans, Arsenal fans and the media on his back and it clearly showed on Wednesday that it is affecting him. But then if it was constantly being drilled into you that you are not good enough to lead the line for Arsenal from all angles, especially from Thierry Henry, then it will have a detrimental affect on your mindset.

The lineup I would love to see us play eventually would be:

my perfect Arsenal

But Theo Walcott only seems to want to play as striker currently which, in my opinion, is not his best position. He scores far more goals from coming inside from a wide position as there is more space to exploit and, most importantly, his back is not towards the goal. Of course you could swap Walcott out for Chamberlain but Walcott is the more established player at this moment in time.

I just hope we don’t kick-start Chelsea’s season with an embarrassing performance. Previous to the midweek game I would have thought we could win the game, and we still could, but currently I would take a draw before kick off. Let’s hope it is the former though.

Dinamo Zagreb Preview + Wilshere debate

We kick-start out Champions League campaign tonight away to Dinamo Zagreb. Let’s just hope we fare better than the two Manchester clubs last night. City has been shocking in Europe, I believe they have won 2 out of their last 11 Champions League matches. As for Manchester United, they bought PSV’s best player and still lost to them. You have to feel for Luke Shaw though, the guy just got over his weight issues and started making good strides in his game only to suffer a double fracture.

Speaking of injuries, there was news that Jack Wilshere will now be out for 3 months due to a hairline fracture of his fibula. It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing as he is a player I enjoy watching, we all love him as he’s Arsenal through and through, but will he ever make it? Every time he starts making progress he suffers a lengthy lay off through injury.

Here are the comments from Wenger and, our captain, Arteta respectively:

“This kind of injury is not career-threatening. I am not a specialist, but this was just an accident. It is a bone injury. It is not linked with the injuries he had before.”

“He has an enormous talent and support from every department of the club, and from the players because we feel sorry for him. He has an amazing career ahead of him. We are responsible for putting that into his head every day and to not allow him to fall down because, at some stage, that is the danger; that he does not believe in himself or his body and he needs to trust himself.”

In regards to team news for tonight’s match, Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin did no travel and will be replaced by Mathieu Debuchy and probably Oxlade-Chamberlain. I suspect the players may have a slight niggle and the manager doesn’t want to risk them for the big game against Chelsea at the weekend. Will we see any other changes with this in mind? Will Gibbs get a rare start?

Let’s try to not make this difficult for ourselves again and finish second.

Arsenal vs Stoke: Clinical Finishing and Team Backing

After the boring international break, which has never made sense to 3 games into the new season, we are back with the nitty gritty stuff. Today we play Stoke in a game that I would normally feel confident about but currently I am not too sure.

So far this season we have been creating chances for fun but we are just not finishing them. In my last post I spoke about this very issue, we seem to take our chances as if we know we will get another one. We need to take our chances as if we won’t get another one.

Stoke have made some very good signings lately and are starting to play better football rather than their long ball rough house antics, although they are still fairly physical but that’s part of the game. The fans need a pick me up as do the players and the only way for this to happen is with a good performance and a positive result.

Fans love players that try hard and put in a shift, it gives encouragement and starts chants which in turn lifts the players’ spirits and this leads to better performances, in theory.

Even though Giroud is in poor form, and his head is all over the place, I still expect him to start. He is a good focal point for our team and we lose a lot of impetus when he isn’t on the pitch as a target man. Wenger has been speaking about wanting goals from other players in the squad but we still need to be clinical in those moments.

“We will have to spread the goals through the squad. I think Giroud, Walcott and Alexis can get around 20 goals without any problem. Sometimes you have to trust your players and play them. I would rather have Ramsey 15, Ozil 15, Cazorla 10. Otherwise, if you have only one player who scores, when he is injured you don’t know who will score.”

The rest of the team picks itself.

Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Chamberlain, Alexis, Cazorla and Giroud.

Let’s have a confidence boosting performance and 3 points please.

Newcastle Preview: Which Defensive Pairing?

After a below standard start to the season we head up to Newcastle, who have also not had the best of starts to the league. After this we head into the dreaded international period, where we seem to always pickup more injuries. Speaking of injuries, there is a rumour that Mesut Ozil, who has been one of our best players so far this season, is out for 6 weeks with an injury picked up in training. Whether this is true or not I do not know.

Team news ahead of today’s early kick off is that Per Mertesacker is still missing from the squad through illness but there is a chance Koscielny may make it. Do we risk playing Koscielny and Gabriel or do we continue with Chambers and Gabriel? I thought despite a shaky start in the first half against Liverpool the former Southampton player improved in the second half. Gabriel is just a warrior though and I have no worries about seeing his name on the team sheet.

Other than that I can’t see Wenger making many other changes. The one change everyone wants to see is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get a start out wide instead of Ramsey. The dilemma this causes thought is that one of Ramsey or Cazorla has to be sacrificed, unless Ozil really is injured. Arsene Wenger loves to the trio of Cazorla, Coquelin and Ramsey behind the front 3.

A lot of hate is also coming Giroud’s way after a few ‘head in hands’ moments against Liverpool. I know we all want a shiny new world class striker but it is easier said than done. If we don’t do anything in the final days of the transfer window then we have to back the squad we have rather than turn against it, because frankly there is nothing else we or the club can do. We still have Welbeck to return to the squad who could bring a new dimension up front, he did well centrally last season whilst Giroud was out.

We need to start this game with intent, aggression and take control. If we can score early on and settle our nerves we can then force Newcastle to attack us and we create space in behind for Alexis to run into. Let’s get those 3 points today lads, hopefully sign 1 or 2 players we need then get through the international break unscathed.

Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview: Emirates Record Starts Anew

I can’t stand Monday games. You spend all day at work then you have a lull between finishing and getting to the game, as well as the journey home in the early hours. Anyway onto today’s preview against Liverpool. We go into tonight’s match having lost our opener against West Ham and look to start a long  undefeated run at home.

Last season we were very strong at home and to challenge for the title you need to make your ground a fortress. Arsene Wenger has acknowledged this:

“If you want to have a successful season you want to be strong at home. Normally we are strong at home. This is an opportunity to show that. We missed our first game and we had to look at ourselves, and we responded very well. Now we need to come back to our usual strength that we have at home.”

 

I think we’ll pick the same team that beat Crystal Palace with the only potential change being Walcott for Giroud. Hopefully we can finally start firing on all cylinders and give some encouragement to the fans, as well as boost the players’ confidence. Maybe the threat of playing a team like Liverpool will give us the focus we need.

We’re in the stages of the season where teams are still finding their feet, as seen over the last 3 weeks, and there is no consistency yet. The only team, so far, who seems to be firing is Manchester City. Even though Liverpool have won both their games and United have won 2 drawn 1 they aren’t looking great, yet.

A win tonight will take us into the top 6 and other than that there’s not much else to ask more, apart from a positive goal difference.

Regarding transfer news, there is a lot of buzz around Karim Benzema, Grzegorz Krychowiak and  Edinson Cavani still. Personally I think if we are going to sign any of them it would be the latter 2, even then it’s hopeful we’d get both. I know everyone wants Benzema and he is the dream but would you take him for £50m over potentially the other 2 at £60m?

Wenger has announced that he is ready to make a gamble in the transfer market if the correct players are available:

“There is always time to take a gamble and we are not against taking a gamble,’ said the manager. But what you want is to take a gamble in a market where the opportunity is there.

I believe this squad is ready to fight for the title and has a chance to do it given that we are continuing to develop as a team. That is the first thing. Internally we have the resources to do that and it is also important that we don’t have too many major injuries like last year.

I said before that I don’t know how good the other teams will be. Man City started especially in an impressive way but the season is long.”

 

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Ozils Majestic Vision

Arsene Wenger went with the suspected lineup I posted yesterday, and after much criticism from fans on social media regarding Ramsey playing on the wing, it worked out in our favour.

Alexis Sanchez was brought back in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right, even though he is not fully fit he was fully committed and gave it his all. Hector Bellerin returned to right back and that extra pace was needed against Puncheon and Zaha.

A lot of fans were calling for Chamberlain to start ahead of Alexis after his previous performances, and due to the Chilean not being 100% match fit yet, but his work rate is unquestionable and I’m sure it lifts the rest of the team. Chamberlain is a good player to bring off the bench, much like Theo, against tired legs due to his pace and direct play.

Straight out of the gate we dominated possession and dictated play, we were superior all over the pitch. We nearly scored early on from a counter from a Palace corner. The end of the move saw Ozil feed Alexis, who hesitated for a split second, and scuppered the chance to put us a goal up. In a couple of weeks I expect to see a fully fit Alexis burying them chances.

We didn’t have to wait long after though to get our breakthrough and what a goal it was. Ozil, the creator again, whipped a ball into the box just behind a waiting Giroud who turned and hooked the ball into the corner of the net. A very agile move for the big Frenchman.

Unfortunately the lead didn’t last too long. The ball bounced its way out to the edge of our box and Ward fired low into the bottom corner. Cech had no chance as it was so precise and his view was obscured, it could have potentially been prevented if Koscielny didn’t bottle the block.

Not long after the second half started we nearly went 2-1 down after a Connor Wickham shot hit the post from the 6 yard box. We looked like we were lacking width and pace with Ramsey out wide, this led to calls for Chamberlain to make an appearance. With Coquelin also on a yellow it was clear that Zaha and Puncheon were targeting him and trying to get him sent off. Fortunately Wenger subbed him for Chamberlain and added a new threat to our attack, Ramsey came slightly more central.

We managed to scrape the win through an Alexis Sanchez header, from a Bellerin cross, which deflected off Delaney into his own net. Arteta and Gibbs came on to help out with the defensive duties and we held on. It wasn’t a comfortable game but it’s a win and three points, our first of the season. Something to build on.

Arsene Wenger had this say:

“We had a good, fluent game in the first half and when they came back to 1-1 it was a mental test to see how we could respond. We managed to find a second goal and after that in the second half of the game we just had to dig in, fight, and we did it as well. I’m pleased because we have shown many different aspects that will be very important in the season.”

 

I thought Ozil played exceptionally and pulled all the strings, this should be the benchmark for his performances this season and aim to improve consistently. Wenger had this to say on the German:

“He was magnificent. He works harder than people thinks he does. He is not spectacular in his defending but he wants to do the job, he wants to help the team. What I liked in his game today was he made many runs without the ball behind the defenders, which is a bit new as he likes to come with the ball. Today he mixed up his game better.”

Crystal Palace preview: prove last week was a blip

After last week’s debacle against West Ham, we really need to bounce back and prove it was just a blip. West Ham lost 2-1 yesterday and had their keeper sent off, which saw Jenkinson banter off Leicester and go in goal. As mentioned previously, West Ham were the better team on the day but they aren’t a better team over the course of a season.

Onto Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace. I suspect we’ll see Hector Bellerin return to the starting lineup, in place of Debuchy. The Frenchman is good but he doesn’t quite have what Bellerin brings to the table. The young Spaniard made the right back position his own when called upon to deputise for the injured Debuchy.

The rest of defence picks itself with Cech – Bellerin – Koscielny – Mertesacker and Monreal being our first choice players. In midfield I think we’ll see Coquelin, Ramsey and Cazorla. This trio didn’t have the best time against West Ham but I feel they are Wenger’s go to midfield as they have previously proven to be reliable.

Our forward line is where it gets interesting. Does the manager drop Oxlade-Chamberlain for Alexis Sanchez already? Does Ozil stick to the left hand side? Will he mix it up and put Alexis Sanchez and Chamberlain/Walcott on either wing? I suspect he’ll be desperate to bounce back strong and opt for Ozil on the left, Alexis on the right and Giroud central. Against a physical team like Crystal Palace you need to play Giroud, rather than Theo Walcott, up front as he’ll be competing in the air a lot. My main worry, which I am sure many among us share, is are we bringing Alexis Sanchez back into the mix too early?

The manager had this to say about the importance of bouncing back after a defeat:

“It is always about how you respond and our game is hugely important. Sometimes, we are maybe too nice. If you want to say our aggression level against West Ham was not big enough, then I would agree with you. I’m confident we will be stronger at Crystal Palace. They’ve tremendously progressed and the consistency of their results has been impressive but we have a good record there and we want to maintain it.”

 

Pardew will have watched his former team beat us and try to take aspects of their game into this. Wenger will be aware of this and our quality should lead us to a hard-fought victory today. We need to rebuild our momentum as we can’t allow the other big teams to build a lead over us this early in the season.

I will take a guess at 1-0 or 2-1 to the Arsenal.

Arsenal v West Ham preview: New Season New Optimism

We go into this new season on a high, full of confidence, after a successful tour of Singapore, winning the Emirates Cup and victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield. The players look sharp, fit and should be ready to begin the new Premier League season.

After the results yesterday, Manchester United scraping a win by an own goal and Chelsea getting a draw, we need to take advantage and start strong. Although it does show that the first game of the season can be unpredictable and focus has to be maintained.

I expect we’ll see the same lineup as against Chelsea but with Giroud starting up front in place of Theo Walcott.

Cech – Bellerin – Koscielny – Mertesacker – Monreal – Cazorla – Ramsey – Coquelin – Ozil – Giroud – Chamberlain.

West Ham have a new manager who the fans are fond of and had a successful stint at Besiktas. You always have to be wary of teams that have recently had a new manager appointed as enthusiasm to impress is dangerous for opposition. Billic threw away their chance at European football in the Europa Cup by fielding a reserve team so they can focus on the domestic competitions.

Wenger is aware of the danger and the necessity of starting strong:

“One of our targets is to start strong. We had a good preparation and that should give us the needed confidence. The Premier League is a fight in every single game so we have to prepare ourselves mentally for that and come out of the blocks straight away against West Ham.

Our ambition is to win the Premier League but we have to sustain that by performance and fighting spirit in every single game.”+

 

With all the rumours circulating about Arsenal attempting to sign a striker, namely Benzema, the boss has tried to instil belief in his current squad by asking for the entire team to chip in with the goals:

“We have to develop our collective game. I think we have to depend less on one guy who comes in and then scores all the goals, and continue to develop our players and the collective aspect.

I don’t see why a guy like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should not aim to score 10 or more goals. Alexis can score goals and Ozil has to fix himself a target of at least 10. Five for a guy who plays behind a striker, you want more goals from him. We can share that a bit.”

 

It was great to see Alexis Sanchez back in training already but I hope we don’t call upon him to play before he is ready. It’s going to be a great feeling being back the Emirates this year, if pre-season is anything to go by, but getting that first win in the league is vital.

Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion: Preview + Rosicky Renews

The last game of the season is finally upon us and it is against West Bromwich Albion at home. After the FA Cup final next weekend, we need to brace ourselves for the tiresome newspaper rumours that link us to everyone under the sun and click bating on social media. A win today would be a nice way to end the season after our last few results. Boost spirits before the big one next weekend.

With a top three finish all but settled, I expect we’ll finally see some rotation today so our players can rest up before the FA Cup final, as well as a few goodbyes from departing players.

I think Gibbs will continue at left back and Calum Chambers may possibly get a start at right back alongside Gabriel in the middle. Debuchy returned to training this week but won’t be fit to start today but should get a place on the bench next Saturday.

In midfield I would continue with Jack Wilshere and we may even see Arteta but would love to see Rosicky get a start. We looked a totally different team once he came on the pitch against Sunderland and having just renewed for another year it would be a great way to end the season.

I would definitely rest Alexis ahead of the FA Cup final as the Chilean looks exhausted and we need all of our players to be at the top of their game, so this is a perfect chance for Walcott to show what he can do before contract negotiations get fully underway.

Giroud should continue up front as it would do his confidence the world of good to bag a goal or two, as he has looked a little wayward in the last 5-6 games. The last position up for grabs will be filled by either Ozil or Cazorla.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has also returned to training this week but I think it is safe to say that, unfortunately, he may only just edge a place on the bench.

Wenger’s comments on today’s match:

“The confidence level will come from recent results. And the important result will, of course, be from the game against West Brom. So it is vital. We have used up our hiccups at home and we want to go out on the final day finishing on a high and sending the fans home in peace.”

 

There are plenty of rumours already circulating about who we have pre-agreements with, already signed and the like but I wouldn’t believe any of them. Jackson Martinez is not the calibre of player we should be aiming at, any more, as he offers nothing different from Giroud.

Arturo Vidal is a player I would definitely take, not just for his ability in midfield but also for his companionship with Alexis Sanchez. Another contender for the midfield role is obviously Morgan Schneiderlin, who is Premiership ready.

The one player I want more than any other this transfer window is Petr Cech. He is a natural winner, as well as leader, who has vast experience. Take nothing away from Ospina’s performances this season but Cech is that level above for at least another 3-4 years. Cech could also bring in some new goalkeeping training methods and mentorship that we have lacked through our archaic coach Gerry Peyton.

In other news, Jack Wilshere has been speaking about how he would be hurt if Arsenal sold him but there have been no conversations with Arsene Wenger yet. This is what Wilshere had to say:

“I would be hurt if they sold me, I want Arsenal to want me. So if they didn’t want me, it would hurt. It would be strange playing for another club. I went to Bolton on loan and that was strange.

I feel like I’m ready to play now and that’s not going to change. I want to play more minutes before the end of the season and then I’ll have to wait until next season and see what the boss’s plans are for me, for the team.”